On Jan. 27, Trent Central Student Association (TCSA)’s winter semi-annual general meeting (SAGM) was held in the Sadleir House Lecture Hall at 1p.m.
The meeting saw the endorsement of changes to TCSA by-laws and policy resolutions, as well as an active dialogue that ensued surrounding the proposed amendments.
SAGM also approved the financial statements from the 2015 fiscal year, and the reports from the Board of Directors as presented for the period of April 22, 2015 to Jan. 18, 2016.
TCSA president Alaine Spiwak, along with many other accounts from the director’s report, highlighted the success of the OohLaLa mobile application. The mobile application is searchable in the application store as “TCSA” and provides information from transit schedules to a list of clubs and groups to a campus map and everything useful, Spiwak said.
She added that she would continue to focus more on the student outreach initiatives. Because it (OohLaLa) allowed students to comment on anything and everything they like or dislike about Trent, Spiwak described it as an active way of gathering student feedback to address issues and make necessary improvements.
More importantly, she reported on the issues of international student tuition fee increases that she had been lobbying against since her term began.
According to Spiwak, when the issue was initially brought to the attention of Trent University’s Board of Governors (BoG) in the summer, it was not considered because it had not gone through Finance and Property.
She was on the agenda for Trent’s Finance and Property committee to bring forward, once again, the need to regulate increases to international student tuition fees so they match increases to domestic tuition fees.
“Trent University can increase international tuition fees by any percentage they want in a given year and that is a problem,” Spiwak said. International students already pay high tuition fees, not to mention they face the uncertainty of not knowing how much more they will have to pay the following year.
It was pointed out that by the end of their four-year degree, international students might have ended up paying substantially more money than originally projected. It is unfortunate, too, that they haven’t received much support from Trent, Spiwak reported.
Finance and Property will not bring forward TCSA’s recommendation to the BoG, on the grounds that Finance and Property need to see the status of provincial funding before committing to the financial changes as suggested by TCSA, Spiwak stated in her report.
Currently, Spiwak is working on gathering more opinions and stories from international students so she can find a way to once again propose a recommendation to put a cap on international student tuition fees. She will continue to bring the issue of tuition fee increases to the BoG to ensure that it is at the front of everyone’s minds.
Another highlight was the BoG Student Caucus. As a student leader, when Spiwak attends the BoG meeting, she is not allowed in the closed session. There are two students on the BoG elected by the student body, but they necessarily don’t have connections to the student body and cannot be held accountable by the student body.
So, Spiwak said that if she is not allowed to express the student opinion, it is questionable as to whether the student voice is present at the discussion table of such an
important board in this University.
It was put forward that this caucus would meet a week before each BoG meeting to discuss items on the agenda.
It would comprise of the student BoG representatives, TCSA President, Trent Graduate Students’ Association (TGSA) President, and Trent Durham Student Association (TDSA) President, reported Spiwak, who “[hopes] these ideas will better increase student communication to our representatives on the Board of Governors.”
Vice President University and College Affairs Pippa O’Brien reported that there are currently 64 clubs registered under the TCSA, although the number continues to increase, as the registration remains open until April. To date, TCSA has given approximately $15,000 in clubs funding, with about $17,000 remaining.
The “Green Your Campus” competition, a new initiative started this year, as reported by Environment and Sustainability Commissioner Anastasia Kaschenko, will give students the opportunity to
implement their ideas.
Green Team at Trent, made up of a dedicated group of students, secured close to $5,000, and is looking to fund students who have ideas for a campus sustainability project. Kaschenko presented another suggestion, which was to provide funding and means to implement students’ academic-related projects that have been submitted over the years, but never actualized.
First Year Off-Residence Commissioner Elora Tarlo stated that in the future she would like to make the position better known to other first-year students. She recently found out that one of her responsibilities, to organize a bus to the Farmers’ Market, was being taken over by some other student. So, Tarlo declared, “I am ready to pass the position on to someone else.”
TCSA Organizational Review and Development Committee also recommended the adoption of amendments made in a certain clause within the by-laws to reflect the current caucus. TCSA Policy Book 2015-2016 states: “A by-law is a rule set out to govern the organization, which everyone in the organization must adhere to.”
The Student Centre levy fee took the first motion for amendment. The new proposed statement read that “all members of the Association registered in 3.5 or more credits shall pay a Student Centre Fee for the purposes of the construction and management of a student centre,” instead of “all students” as per the original statement.
It was reasoned that when Trent Part-time Student Association (TPSA) and TCSA merged, there was no agreement in place for the part-time students to be paying in to the student levy.
The number of directors was also amended to reflect the change in a staffing plan, which went through at the recent board meeting on Jan. 10. The TCSA will have a new Vice President Clubs and External Affairs in the coming year.
Campaigns and University Affairs committee under standing committees was replaced by Events committee. It was clarified that the old committee was not functioning in a capacity successful to the organization. Since most of its mandates were to focus on events, changing it to events was more advantageous.
Another change was made to the budget presentation date. To reflect the new annual operating budget (that was changed in 2013), TCSA should have the first draft of the budget in October, the second in January, and the third to the Board of Directors by the end of May.
TCSA Policy Resolutions saw some changes in their use of language and got rid of things that were no longer functioning or in existence.
TCSA Policy Book 2015-2016 states: “Policy Resolutions are documents that outline the specific values and shared beliefs of the organization. For example, the Trent Central Student Association has Policy Resolutions on a broad range of issues, such as Tuition User Fees and University Autonomy.”
Under the college system, TCSA proposed the change in language of “Introductory Seminar Weeks (ISW) and orientation activities organized in a collegiate basis” to “Orientation weeks and orientation activities organized in a collegiate basis.”
However, during the meeting, a motion was put forward by one of the attendees to change it back to the original ISW.
The speaker said that Gzowski Cabinet in particular has actively chosen not to change the terms in their Constitution because “the change of term by the administration showed a lack of consultation with students, therefore it is a huge concern for the cabinet.”
They think it is important that if a term will be changed on the policy level, then it necessitates consultation with the college cabinets; and for the TCSA to make the changes on their own fails to show solidarity with the college cabinets, the speaker expressed.
TCSA justified the change by saying that “Trent has changed the term so it is necessary that we change it so they are reflected in our policy and resolution, to help with the students’ orientation week.
However, the motion put forward by the floor to change the term back from orientation week to ISW failed to carry through with 19 opposed and only two in favour.
Another resolution that saw thorough discussion was the university residences policy resolution. The floor put forward a motion to repeal the entire policy.
After a long discussion and deliberation, representatives of TCSA Organizational Review and Development Committee saw that whatever language was being utilized or amendments proposed are completely pertinent to Trent University. So, the initial motion put forward by TCSA to adopt the amendment was carried through.
The TCSA Winter SAGM closed with successful discussion of all the agendas proposed.